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Marketing health is a big challenge
And the Ministry of Health’s Media, Production and Social Marketing Unit believes unless new marketing strategies are developed health marketing will not achieve the needed results.
Acting Head Iliesa Tora said this was a big challenge.
“The unit is part of the National Centre for Health Promotion and it has been marketing health in the past years,” Mr Tora said.
“But we were not as effective as we would have wanted. While we were promoting health messages people were still not heeding them, because we could see that there were still typhoid outbreaks, people were still checking late into hospitals when they are sick and we are still seeing high numbers of obese people around.”
Mr Tora said annually the Ministry of Health spends close to $2 million on promoting health and marketing health ideas through the ministry’s different health programs.
And he believes that it was high time the ministry centralized its marketing arm so that the dollar is put to more value.
“That is something we are trying to push through from the unit here. We are saying that we should co-ordinate our marketing better,” Mr Tora said.
“This is a big challenge because in a business that is done. Everything is handled, co-ordinated by a focal unit.
“The idea that we are pushing through is if we are to make a real impact then we have to market health like Coca Cola markets their product, like Chow markets their product.
“That’s the way to go for us.”
As part of that new change the unit is now looking at intensively using all media outlets to market their health messages and utilize other means of getting their messages across.
One of the new ones is the composition of Health songs by local groups so that is aired over the main radio stations in the country.
Na Tiko Bulabula and Na Mate Rerevaki can now be heard sung on the Fijian stations of Fiji Broadcasting Commission, Bula FM and Radio Fiji One while Communication Fiji Limited’s Viti FM also airs those songs now.
The songs were composed and now sung by a new group from Koro Island, Tegu ni Delai Kuitarua.
Mr Tora said the idea of the song was actually put forward by radio announcers from the two communication companies who felt that messages sung would be a hit with members of the public.
“We looked at that and believe that people do like their music. The recordings are done in Acoustic or Sigi Drigi to cater for the older members of the public who like to listen to acoustic music and programmed music for the younger generation.
Na Tiko Bulabula talks about health promotion messages on healthy living while Na Mate Rerevaki is on HIV/AIDS.
Other marketing tools now being used by the Ministry of Health include:
- the use of billboards at strategic positions around the country. This includes the National Stadium in Suva.
- sponsorship of TV programs that augurs with health programs. One example is the sponsorship of the Extra Time sports talkback show on Fiji One every Wednesday.
- utilization of print media such as the Fiji Sun, Teivovo magazine, MaiLife magazine, The Southern Star community newspaper and Families Fiji to carry paid health messages as ads while they contribute health pages that carry health articles.
- the use of radio programs with both FBC and CFL
- the use of Fiji in Focus program, aired by government on TV 2
- the use of the QTV hosted by Post Fiji at all their outlets
- the production of TV programs by the unit for use by Fiji in Focus, Mai TV and Fiji TV.
- production of IEC materials with health messages on certain issues
- upgrading of the Ministry of Health website to include health messages, articles and information for the local and worldwide audience
- daily media releases to all media outlets
- close working relationship with all the media outlets in the country
- weekly media briefings on updates and events within the Ministry of Health
- monthly health walks in Suva and other centres where the health and fitness message is practically exemplified.
Mr Tora said the unit was also working with government and non government organizations, youth groups, religious organizations and different communities in raising health issues of concerns and ways issues can be best tackled.